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Office of News and Information
Johns Hopkins University
901 South Bond Street, Suite 540
Baltimore, Maryland 21231
Phone: 443-287-9960 | Fax: 443-287-9898

March 23, 2004
CONTACT: Deborah Pankey-Mebane
(443) 287-9900

Professor Explores Victorian Perception of Insanity

Sociologist and author Joel Peter Eigen will discuss his book Unconscious Crime: Mental Absence and Criminal Responsibility in Victorian London at noon on Wednesday, March 31, in Shriver Hall Auditorium on the Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus, 3400 N. Charles St. in Baltimore.

Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press, Unconscious Crime is based on Eigen's research on Victorian-era trials in London's Old Bailey Courthouse. The book explores cases in which defendants displayed evidence of mental aberration but were not classified as insane by the Victorian legal system. Eigen's examples include a sleepwalking homicidal nursemaid, a juvenile poisoner and a man who committed arson by a "lesion of the will." Eigen's research investigates the differences between legal and medical perceptions of defendant sanity. Even while a 1843 law formalized the Victorian insanity plea, Eigen shows that courts and physicians were reluctant to accept the new, broadened definition of mental insanity.

Eigen is the Charles A. Dana Professor of sociology at Franklin and Marshall College and is the author of Witnessing Insanity: Madness and Mad-Doctors in the English Court. Copies of Unconscious Crime will be available for sale and signing. This discussion is co-sponsored by The Johns Hopkins University Press. A digital image of the book is available upon request to amycowles@jhu.edu.

This event is part of the Wednesday Noon Series presented by The Johns Hopkins University Office of Special Events, now in its 38th season of cultural programming on the Homewood campus. Admission is free. For information, call the Office of Special Events at 443-287-9900.

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